While Newgarden is mum about 2017, he has lots of good to say about 2016

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No matter where he winds up in 2017, Josef Newgarden will never forget the season that was in 2016.

Newgarden, who finished sixth in Sunday’s season-ending GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, is keeping mum about what next season holds in store for him in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

There are rumors about him potentially joining Team Penske.

Others call Newgarden the pivotal domino during the offseason: where he ultimately ends up could potentially impact the 2017 season plans for several other drivers – and what teams they’ll wind up racing for.

And there’s still a chance Newgarden could remain with Ed Carpenter Racing, a team that he has truly blossomed with, particularly in the last two seasons (2015 was under the Carpenter/Fisher Racing banner).

All in all, 2016 was a great season for Newgarden, particularly since it ended with a career-best fourth-place overall finish in the standings. Had he been able to amass just three more points in the 16-race schedule, he would have finished third in the overall season standings.

Still, he’s not complaining.

“We feel great about it,” Newgarden told NBCSN after the race. “It would have been nice to get Helio (Castroneves) there. I was doing everything I could and the team was working as hard as they could. We missed it by just a bit.

“I still think we had a great season. We really had an amazing team effort and all year, with all the trials and tribulations, everybody pulled through when we needed to. We nearly got there in the end. There’s nothing for us to hang our heads about.”

As for his future and what team he’ll race for next season, Newgarden will never forget where he came from.

“I love this team,” he said. “I can’t say anything but great things about it. I love working here, I’ve got everything I could ask for from a boss and a team. It’s been a pleasure to be a part of this group all year.”

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Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).